Published Nov. 2, 2016 in the Puget Sound Business Journal
Andrew McIntosh,Staff Writer
Puget Sound Business Journal
It's only a dream for now, reflected in a plastic model introduced to the world at an air show in far away China.
But that model has the potential to turn into a nightmare for Chicago-based Boeing (NYSE: BA), which builds its wide-body 747, 777 and 787 Dreamliner aircraft in the Puget Sound area.
Chinese and Russian aerospace manufacturing executives on Wednesday unveiled the model for the C929 wide-body jet they plan to make some day, a move that would put them in direct competition with aerospace giants Boeing and Airbus.
The aircraft would be developed in Russia and assembled in China. Commercial Aircraft Corp. of China (COMAC) and Russian partner United Aircraft Co. (UAC) said their plane will enter service in 2026 after years of testing. They pledged the joint venture will be up and running in Shanghai within a year.
The partners will invest $13 billion to $20 billion on the project, UAC President Yuri Slyusar told reporters.
COMAC officials said the new jet will have three seating classes and a range of up to 7,456 miles (12,000 km).
A Boeing Commercial Airplanes spokesman declined to comment on the project.
COMAC is already making the C919 narrow-body jet, which is several years behind schedule. There was precious little news about that airplane at the show.
In terms of jets, COMAC makes its intentions pretty clear.
"Large passenger aircraft is the embodiment of the nation’s industrial and technological standing as well as its comprehensive power," COMAC says on its English-language website.
If you think China is bluffing, don't forget that 20 years ago the Chinese economy was so weak that the country was receiving official development assistance from North American and European nations. A lot has changed since then. This week, the Asian nation unveiled its stealth military combat fighter with a fly-over at the air show.
Seattle-based aerospace business analyst Michel Merluzeau recently warned Boeing and Airbus to carefully watch the Chinese jet manufacturing effort as it moves forward.
"Beware the Chinese. Their ability to surprise us will be significant,” he said.